By puckstopper31 aka Bryan Kadlec

With all the fuss about social networking in the new age of technology, one must look through all of its uses in order to fully understand it. Yes, as individuals, we use it to tell our friends and family what we are up to at any given time, and even to post pictures of what we are doing. But now, with the opportunities for fan pages and groups, companies are arriving on the scene to show their wares and get in closer touch with their customers than they really ever could have before the internet and networking. Even with forums such as our own here, card companies such as Upper Deck or Topps could be looking through for suggestions on how to make their marketing and customer service better.

All of the card companies now seem to be arriving on board with sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This is both as a ploy to increase customers and show their business to the world as well as receiving feedback from their current customers regarding products. Through these sites they have the opportunity to reach millions if “liked”. If anything, it gives an opening to newcomers to the hobby which we all know is good.

The extent to which these companies use social networking is all in all what they can do with the sites. They respond to most customers concerns, hold give-aways and contests, and release information about their sets. The only way I see that could make it better is to post images of card layouts in their sets. Being able to reach the public with this information would give them a new start with the current generation’s view of the hobby. The most interesting and most surprising aspect that I found out about however was the contests and give-aways. It is a very good marketing idea to introduce even veteran collectors to other sports and other ways of collecting within the hobby.

I have researched the give-aways that have occurred recently, specifically on the Upper Deck page of Facebook, mostly because I have not participated in one as of yet. The most recent one consisted of going to player’s pages on Facebook and posting images of cards as to entice other fans to collect the swatches of jerseys and patches inlayed into these cards. One of our own on SCF actually won this contest. Contests allow the public to participate in the marketing of products for the company. In a way, it is a free way to get the word out about collecting. These seem to be interesting to say the least and I look forward to researching them more once I start participating.

If I were them, one thing I would do differently would be to assign a staff position to check the page every hour in order to better assist those who had questions on the page. This would help with appearance and being able to be seen as a helping entity rather than a company trying to make money by selling its products. I really like all of the attempts they are making to get closer to their fans and customers. A second thing I would add is more pictures of their cards, players, and signing sessions. That way, we as fans of the hobby could actually see what happens during production of the relics that we come to love. A third thing would be to start a contest through which one could attend one of these sessions.

I personally feel like the service I have received and have seen from Upper Deck on the site to be of great standards. They answer questions to the utmost of their knowledge in order to have the customer wanting to come back and ask more questions. I have seen queries ranging from “When will (insert set name) come out?” to “Can we have another contest?” and Upper Deck responds to all, except for some which are unrelated to the purpose of having the page in the first place. Especially with the eight thousand such fans that participate within the page of the companies, they do a fantastic job keeping the peace and creating a great environment for collectors.

All in all however networking affects the companies, if anything; it will increase interest in the hobby which is always good. The large amounts of people “following” the card companies are also good because this shows how many people are into collecting for the passion. We all know that there are a few people who only collect in the aim of gaining money, but those who really care enough to achieve their goals are a true gift to the hobby. Who knows, maybe this networking will lead to more of the latter joining those of us who cherish our collections